Two weeks after more than a hundred K2 overdoses in New Haven, a community health group is hoping to put more people on the path to recovery from addiction.
The Cornell Scott-Hill Health Center hosted its third National Overdose Awareness Day on the New Haven Green Thursday, where most of those patients overdosed on K2.
The outreach event started two years ago after an outbreak of overdoses in New Haven from cocaine laced with fentanyl. Three people died in June 2016.
Organizers said this year there is an added emphasis on educating people about the dangers of K2, a synthetic cannabinoid.
As first responders rushed to help dozens of K2 overdose patients on Aug. 15, Wilfredo avoided the New Haven Green.
“I’m new in this process man and I try to stay away from that stuff as much as possible man,” he told NBC Connecticut.
Wilfredo said he never tried the man-made mind altering chemical.
“But I probably would have,” he said, during a battle with addiction that lasted more than 30 years.
“My life is an open book,” he added, “I got nothing to hide. I was using heroin, I was using alcohol, and I was using pills.”
Wilfredo finally called the 211 help line in April. He has since received treatment from the Cornell-Scott Hill Health Center.
“I have family, I have friends,” he said, “that kept pushing me for years. Let’s say and finally I said something’s got to give.”
At the health center’s overdose awareness day event, there was a tent with information on the dangers of K2, also known as Spice. A poster laid out the unpredictable side effects on the body when using the dangerous synthetic drug.
A message on the poster read “you never know what you’re going to get with synthetic cannabinoids.”
“The problem with the K2 is it has a lot more side effects,” said Clinical Director of Homeless Care Phil Costello. “A lot of people think K2 is just cheap marijuana, but it’s not.”
Organizers also shared information on the opioid epidemic. They passed out about 100 Narcan kits and wrote 116 prescriptions for the overdose reversal medication.
“I’ve been four years clean off of heroin,” Christina Granniss told NBC Connecticut.
She still stopped by the event.
“To see if I can get a Narcan script for my friends that are still using,” she said.
It has been two weeks since dozens of K2 users in New Haven had to be taken to the hospital. Some of the patients had to be transported more than once, police said.
“This was just on a larger magnitude than any of us could have imagined that people would be out and this affected,” Costello said.
The city is stepping up planning with the Health Center and community partners, Director of Emergency Operations Rick Fontana said.
The goal is to have a more cost-effective response in case there’s another drug overdose outbreak, Fontana said.
“If something triggers as it did we might even bring Cornell Scott down to the Green,” Fontana said, “coordinate with our medical directors, our fire department personnel.”
On the second day of the emergency that made national news, Costello said Cornell Scott set up a triage area on the Green with eight beds.
“That allowed us to monitor people that didn’t need to go to the hospital,” he said, “try to mitigate some of that transport and those hospital stays.”
Four months after calling for help, Wilfredo said his recovery from substance abuse is not over.
“I’m not saying I’m cured,” he said. “I’m not saying this is all done with, all I’m saying just for today I’m clean and I feel great, man.”